Thankful For The ACA

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by Christina Lay

Recently, while reading an opinion piece analyzing why the democrats won back the House of Reps, I was struck by how the political strategist being interviewed spoke of Health Care as a “pocketbook issue”.  I was taken aback by the realization that even the lawmakers who support it consider health care a matter of dollars and cents, not basic survival.

I suppose it’s natural for people who’ve never had to go without insurance, or who’ve never had a life-threatening illness, to look at universal health care as a benefit that might raise taxes rather than as a human right that will save lives. I don’t have that luxury. Although the Affordable Care Act is an imperfect, unlovely and misshapen thing, I know that it is better than nothing. Far, far better than nothing. I’m saying this as someone who would surely be dead or dying if not for the fact that President Obama’s socialist scheme “forced” me to buy health insurance three years ago.

Although I’ve always supported the idea of universal health care, I balked at being forced to pay for crappy insurance. Let’s be honest: the ACA is not affordable. Cancer is even less so, but until you get the diagnosis, it’s not something you work into your life plan or budget.

Here’s my story in a nutshell: I work full time, but at three different jobs, so I had no health insurance. When the ACA passed, I grumpily signed up for the cheapest insurance available on the marketplace. Because the deductible is so high ($6,500) I assumed the insurance would do me no good unless I happened to get hit by a truck. About a year in, I got hit by the proverbial truck. I started to have symptoms. The doctor I saw gave me a long list of possible causes, the very last being colon cancer. He concluded by saying I probably had an ulcer, to stop taking Ibuprofen, and to get a colonoscopy.

I can say unequivocally that if I hadn’t had insurance, I never would have gotten that colonoscopy. I had a scare during the process in which the insurance company at first said they wouldn’t pay for it (that’s a subject for another post, let me tell you). During this time when I thought I’d have to pay for the test myself, I came very close to cancelling it. I did some research and found that a colonoscopy costs somewhere in the range of $3,000-$5,000. This was just not possible for me, especially since I knew deep down that they wouldn’t find anything.  However, in a moment of clarity, an old refrain played in my head: what’s more important than your health?  This is when the “pocketbook” suddenly becomes much less important as you realize that being alive is pretty much a prerequisite for everything else.

A helpful and forthright nurse finally assured me that the insurance company would pay for the colonoscopy: I was over fifty and I’d never had one. It was all a matter of checking the right box. The fact that checking the wrong or right box on an insurance form might be a matter of life and death still makes my heart freeze.

I went. I had the test. I discovered I had a large cancerous tumor growing in my lower colon.

A battery of tests, a surgery, and a $70,000 dollar hospital bill paid for by my crappy insurance later, I am a cancer survivor. But cancer isn’t that tidy. I still have to see the oncologist every three months, have blood drawn, get hideously expensive CT scans and so forth. So you see, I don’t have the luxury of sitting back and hoping that after hamstringing, gutting and undermining the ACA, the party in power might eventually someday come up with something better. Already, because of their actions, my monthly premium is going to double next year.

But I can’t go back to being without insurance. I absolutely can’t, and neither can I afford insurance without the subsidy the ACA provides.

Maybe the cancer won’t come back. Maybe I can hobble along into my sixties without another major health crisis. I don’t like the odds. I will continue to pay for the Unaffordable Care that I get, knowing that Life and Health far outweigh any concerns of my poor abused pocketbook.

How do we get politicians to understand that? How do we get them to care? I’m not sure it’s possible. Personally, I feel like an expendable foot soldier in the war for political power, with the ultimate goal being….what? Lower taxes? I know that I am one of millions depending on the ACA. I shudder to think how many people will be forced to forgo the simple test that could save their lives, or all the people who will go bankrupt fighting to survive, while their representatives in congress (all with great health insurance that we pay for) play Russian roulette with their lives. All for politics, power and pocketbooks.

Today is Thanksgiving. Today I am thankful to be alive. I am thankful for the lumpy, ugly, shambling mess that is the ACA. I am thankful to President Obama for having the guts to make this crucial Human Right a priority of his administration. And I am grateful that the party who seems to give at least half a fig about my life has regained some power.  They didn’t win because people are worried about their pocketbooks. They won because people are afraid for their lives.

Now let’s give the ACA some love. Let’s strengthen it, not undermine it. The life saved could be yours.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Free Short Story ~ The Monster Within

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Original Artwork “If These Walls Could Talk” by Sarina Dorie

My short story, The Monster Within, is up on Amazon for free until 2/24/18! This is the first story I wrote about Marek and Remy, and it gives a glimpse into the world that inspired my novella, Symphony of Ruin. If you’d like a sample before committing to an entire book, now’s your chance. And on the flip side, if you enjoyed Symphony of Ruin I’m sure you’ll enjoy finding out how Remy and Marek started out.

In case you need further convincing, I’ve included an excerpt from the beginning of the story~

The Monster Within

Remy the rat boy came to my abode moments before sundown, noisily exclaiming that he’d discovered yet another blood eater in its grave. I was less excited than he. The spring floods had been gnawing away at the riverbanks for weeks, and the city’s most ancient secrets lay exposed. Increased demand for my alchemical skills left me with little time for my own pursuits. That day, the skies had finally cleared, the flood waters slackened and no one had come requesting saltpeter to drive out the plague toads, or copper beads to ward off the black heart mold, or my own special herbal blend for the discouragement of cellar trolls.

I deeply desired to send Remy away and ignore this latest unpleasantness, but once exposed, the corpse of such a monster invited only trouble. I made Remy wait outside as I gathered up the necessary chemical compounds in a leather satchel. I’d earned my knowledge through years of toil and wasn’t about to let the little sneak rob me of its value. When finished, I threw my cloak round my shoulders and followed the grimy orphan boy out of the twisted lane where I lived and down the sloping streets toward the river.

A crowd of boys greeted me. “Master Marek, Master Marek,” they cried as I strode away from the comforts of the professional quarter beneath the shadow of the castle and made my way to the docks north of the great stone bridge. “A monster!” they sang gleefully, as if finding this corpse gave them more joy than finding the hidden fairy during the Flower Festival on All Spells Day. In olden days, a monster got more respect, dead or alive. But now that most monsters were indeed dead, I feared our youth grew up rather reckless. I envied them their ignorant confidence.

The river still ran high, black and swift. Most of the flood damage remained untended, and would until the court emerged from its winter seclusion. Wooden docks had washed free and piled high against the bulwarks of the bridge. Supporting walls had crumbled and muddy banks lay exposed. Trees uprooted in the mountains had ended their journey nearly intact, creating eddies and whirlpools all along the waterfront. Homeless urchins swarmed like black beetles over the fresh turned mud, searching for washed up treasures. What they mostly found was garbage, and sodden garbage at that, but every once in a while, the long-sealed mouth of a tunnel or catacomb was revealed, and that’s when they came to me, Marek Zahradnik, alchemist and monster exterminator to kings and rabble alike.

I once again questioned my career choice upon viewing the gaping maw of yet another dripping, spider-black catacomb. The view did not slow Remy the rat boy. He slithered into the cave faster than a worm into filth, his measly lantern light disappearing with him.

“Go on,” said one of his mates. “It’s quite safe,” he added, ignorant of all the finer aspects of the word, he who thought safe meant “out of sight of the king’s guards” or “not currently on fire”. I scowled at him, not to be hurried, and took the time to rub a bit of mercury of myrtle upon the tip of my walking stick to create a faint glow. Then I dipped my head and entered the tunnel, resigned to wet shoes and squishy socks.

Thoughts of clammy toes and the things that might sprout between them if not quickly treated with ash of witch’s broom fled from my mind upon reaching the bones of the blood eater. As usual, the skeleton was phosphorescent. It cast a greenish light on Remy’s long, thin nose and buck teeth. Even the children could tell it was a blood eater, or vampyr, or dragula, by the large wooden stake wedged into its ribcage.

*

Find out what happens next. Get the short story here. (The story will be free until 2/24, then it will be .99)

Symphony of Ruin Excerpt #5

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Happy Labor Day Weekend if you’re in the states. If not, hope you have a three-day weekend soon! Here in Oregon, we’re drenched in fire, so a lot of plans have been smoked out.  All the more reason to hole up and read, in my opinion.

I’m participating in Weekend Writing Warriors again, a blog hop where writers from every genre share excerpts of 10 lines or less from their work. It’s a great way to find the next book to hole up with!

I’ve been sharing from the first chapter of Symphony of Ruin: A Labyrinth of Souls novel.  I jumped ahead a bit from the last excerpt.  Remy, an alchemist’s apprentice, and his pal Glyn are enjoying the master’s good liquor while he’s away.

Remy sank into Marek’s chair with only the slightest unease prickling the hairs on his neck. He’d never sat in Marek’s chair before. Glyn plopped down in the chair opposite with a sigh. After a moment he stuck his boots toward the fire. Remy noted the soles were more holes than leather. Bare skin showed through the worn spots.

“You have it good here, Remy,” Glyn noted.

“Eh, that’s true.” To be plucked out of the gutters by a man as important as Marek and given a position and place to sleep was unheard of luck. Remy, a filthy, flea-infested criminal had been granted a first chance at life by some accidental miracle, for surely the gods gave not one pig’s ear about his fate.

 

 

Death is stalking The City. From out of the catacombs, a deadly monster has arisen. Unfortunately for alchemist’s apprentice Remy the Rat Boy, his master is away and it’s up to Remy to discover the nature of the monster and put an end to its killing rampage. His search for answers takes him high into the elegant chambers of the city’s elite, and down into long forgotten ruins, into depths untraveled and unimagined for centuries. Lost in the ancient ruins with only ghosts and creatures of the darkness for companionship, Remy must use every ounce of wit and conjure every scrap of magic at his disposal in order to survive the labyrinth and save The City from its shadow self.

Buy on Amazon or Books2Read

The awesome artwork on the cover is by Josephe Vandel.

For more info on the Labyrinth of Souls Fiction Project visit ShadowSpinnerspress.com

To continue the hop and discover more writers sharing their work visit Weekend Writing Warriors.

Symphony of Ruin Excerpt #4

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Welcome to my blog! I’m participating in the Weekend Writing Warriors blog hop again with another excerpt from my new release, Symphony of Ruin. Remy, an alchemist’s apprentice, and his pal Glyn are raiding the pantry for a bit of expensive liquor, in order to commemorate the passing of another friend, Abernath.

~

As Remy eased back his sleeve caught on a jutting handle and brought a little pot thudding to the tabletop. The pottery cracked. Something black and viscous oozed out.

“Ox balls,” he muttered, and clambered down from the table.

“What is that?” Glyn backed up as if a jinn might spring forth from the ooze.

“Nothing to worry about,” Remy said. He gave the scratch marks on the lid a closer look. Ox balls and a pig’s poker to boot. “Nothing to worry about immediately anyway.”

~

 

Death is stalking The City. From out of the catacombs, a deadly monster has arisen. Unfortunately for alchemist’s apprentice Remy the Rat Boy, his master is away and it’s up to Remy to discover the nature of the monster and put an end to its killing rampage. His search for answers takes him high into the elegant chambers of the city’s elite, and down into long forgotten ruins, into depths untraveled and unimagined for centuries. Lost in the ancient ruins with only ghosts and creatures of the darkness for companionship, Remy must use every ounce of wit and conjure every scrap of magic at his disposal in order to survive the labyrinth and save The City from its shadow self.

Buy on Amazon or Books2Read

The awesome artwork on the cover is by Josephe Vandel.

For more info on the Labyrinth of Souls Fiction Project visit ShadowSpinnerspress.com

To continue the hop and discover more writers sharing their work visit Weekend Writing Warriors.

 

Symphony of Ruin Weekend Writing Warriors 3

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In case you don’t know it, you’ve just stumbled across Weekend Writing Warriors, one of the best blog hops on the web.  Click the link above to discover a whole range of fun and interesting excerpts by writers of all genres.

So in my little corner of the world, something exciting happened. My book launched!  Symphony of Ruin: A Labyrinth of Souls novel is now available at a fine online retailer near you.

I’ve been sharing from the first chapter when we first meet Remy, an alchemist’s apprentice, and his friend Glyn.  Remy is in the process of raiding his master’s liquor pantry, going for the good stuff on the top shelf.

~

Remy remembered its heat coating his throat, the flavors of caramel, loam and wealth, and the comforting affect a mere sip had on his state of mind. That was what he needed now—comfort. Glyn had just brought him the news of their mate Abernath’s death. Abernath, a robust young man of seventeen years—the same age as Remy and Glyn—had been found dead in an alley the night before without a fresh mark on him.

Remy’s long fingers tweezed the decanter toward the edge of the shelf. Glyn took an audible breath, sucking air out of the room in the process, braced to flee at the first hint of disaster. Glyn would rather face death than Master Marek in a rage.

“Marek is in the Giant Mountains,” Remy assured him, voice a little pinched from the effort of stretching to his full length and a tiny bit beyond. “I’ve had no word from him for weeks. He’s not about to pop up in the middle of the night with no notice.”

Death is stalking The City. From out of the catacombs, a deadly monster has arisen. Unfortunately for alchemist’s apprentice Remy the Rat Boy, his master is away and it’s up to Remy to discover the nature of the monster and put an end to its killing rampage. His search for answers takes him high into the elegant chambers of the city’s elite, and down into long forgotten ruins, into depths untraveled and unimagined for centuries. Lost in the ancient ruins with only ghosts and creatures of the darkness for companionship, Remy must use every ounce of wit and conjure every scrap of magic at his disposal in order to survive the labyrinth and save The City from its shadow self.

Buy on Amazon or Books2Read

By the way, Symphony is available in both ebook and print, but the great Amazon machine hasn’t quite figured that out yet, so the two versions aren’t linked (last time I looked).

The awesome artwork on the cover is by Josephe Vandel.

For more info on the Labyrinth of Souls Fiction Project visit ShadowSpinnerspress.com

Symphony of Ruin Weekend Writing Warriors 2

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Symphony of Ruin releases this week, and yes, the actual date is still up in the air because of all those little things that need to fall into place in order for a book to happen, but rest assured, it will happen! There will be book! And I will certainly let you know when it happens.

That said, welcome to Weekend Writing Warriors. Click on the link to visit the list and pick and choose from a bunch of cool writers who are sharing snippets of their work today. To my fellow Warriors, I’ll apologize now if I don’t comment on your post. I’ve been having issues posting on some types of blogs, like blogspot.  I’ll try to get that worked out this week.

The snippet:  Last week we joined Remy and his friend Glyn as Remy undertook a raid on his masters liquor supply.

Remy grabbed at the row of shelves to steady himself as he climbed up. The collection of bottles and jars rattled alarmingly. He paused as they settled. Nothing fell except a tuft of what looked like dried moss.

When he’d first moved in, Remy would have needed to use a footstool to reach the tabletop and he’d have to stand on the rickety table to reach Marek’s stash of quality liquor. Now if he stretched full length, he could finger the row of colored glass bottles on the top shelf while still on his knees.

Some of the bottles were filled with dyed water. He knew this because he was the one who’d drained and refilled them.   His master never noticed because Marek rarely partook of the odd offerings of beet brandy, moss wine, crabapple cider and so on that his clients sometimes paid him with. No, Marek reserved his imbibing for the good stuff in the cut crystal decanter, an amber brandy he shared with Remy on Winter’s solstice, and then only by the wee thimble full.

Release date: July 2017

Death is stalking The City. From out of the catacombs, a deadly monster has arisen. Unfortunately for alchemist’s apprentice Remy the Rat Boy, his master is away and it’s up to Remy to discover the nature of the monster and put an end to its killing rampage. His search for answers takes him high into the elegant chambers of the city’s elite, and down into long forgotten ruins, into depths untraveled and unimagined for centuries. Lost in the ancient ruins with only ghosts and creatures of the darkness for companionship, Remy must use every ounce of wit and conjure every scrap of magic at his disposal in order to survive the labyrinth and save The City from its shadow self.

For more info on the Labyrinth of Souls Fiction Project visit ShadowSpinnerspress.com

Symphony of Ruin ~ An Introduction

Let me just say, Holy Guacamole.  You know that moment when you think, oh, it’s been a while since I posted on this blog hop, I think I’ll hop on over–and then you realize it’s been three flippin’ years?  In my meager defense, I’ll point out that I haven’t been inactive. I post all the time over on the ShadowSpinners blog, but I’ve neglected my personal blog for quite some time.  Being the shameless internet marketing slut that I am, I return to Weekend Writing Warriors just in time to share about my upcoming release, Symphony of Ruin, release date: end of July.

Symphony is high fantasy, and is part of a multi-author series inspired the game and the artwork of Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls by Matt Lowes.

So here’s the opening ten lines, followed by the blurb. Hope you enjoy the snippet, and continue the hop by visiting the other writers participating today. It’s fun! You’ll like it!

The Snippet

Death made its nightly rounds of the old quarter. Skeletal toes scraped the cobblestones and bones rattled in the keening wind blowing down from the steppes. The scythe of oblivion spared no one; man, woman or child might be snatched. This alone was reason enough to raid Master Marek’s pantry and Remy could think of several others as he cleared a space on the long table against the wall. He placed one knee on the well-worn surface and tested its strength. The table wobbled only slightly on uneven legs.

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” his friend Glyn asked from behind him.

“Not only is it good, it is excellent. Top notch. One of the best I’ve ever had.”

Artwork by Joseph Vandel, Cover design by Matt Lowes

Symphony of Ruin – A Labyrinth of Souls Novel  July 2017

Death is stalking The City. From out of the catacombs, a deadly monster has arisen. Unfortunately for alchemist’s apprentice Remy the Rat Boy, his master is away and it’s up to Remy to discover the nature of the monster and put an end to its killing rampage. His search for answers takes him high into the elegant chambers of the city’s elite, and down into long forgotten ruins, into depths untraveled and unimagined for centuries. Lost in the ancient ruins with only ghosts and creatures of the darkness for companionship, Remy must use every ounce of wit and conjure every scrap of magic at his disposal in order to survive the deadly challenges of the labyrinth and save The City from its shadow self.